'Dream Land': Don't miss this new documentary from AETN | Arkansas Blog

'Dream Land': Don't miss this new documentary from AETN

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SURVIVOR: Taborian Hall is one of the few remant structures on Ninth Street. It's now occupied by a flag maker.
  • SURVIVOR: Taborian Hall is one of the few remant structures on Ninth Street. It's now occupied by a flag maker.

I joined a crowd at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center last night for a screening of "Dream Land: Little Rock's West Ninth Street," a documentary built around the Ninth Street corridor that was once home to the center of black commerce in Little Rock.

I expected a gauzy and fond reminiscence of a bygone time on Ninth — Taborian Hall and its Dream Land ballroom, bars, barber shops, tailors, cafes, clubs and such

It was that, but it was so much more. The four-year labor is head-slappingly relevant.

In 56 minutes, you're given a capsule history of slavery, lynching, commerce segregation, urban renewal, school segregation, housing segregation and destructive freeway construction, amid music, archival images and sharp recollections from people who walked the street when sidewalks were packed with black people in the days of Jim Crow.

I wanted to shout "Amen!" when producer Tanisha Joe-Conway talked about the importance of the lessons the film can teach today. Look around. The highway department wants to plow still more concrete through the urban core of Little Rock. White flight to the west continues. Rich white people are financing efforts to further destabilize Little Rock public schools. The inner city decays and commercial strips die as suburbanization continues, often with aid from city "leaders." The past is not even past. We write our history books and then we repeat it.

As glorious as this movie is aesthetically — including soulful original music and Gabe Mayhan's sharp camera — the meat on the bones of the research really sustained me.

They amassed a huge trove of outtakes. You can get some idea from the AETN website. I hope more is developed.

Watch it at 7 p.m. Thursday on AETN. And look for it to come in teaching projects around the state.


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